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An early retirement update

An early retirement update

At the end of last year, I questioned whether to continue with my blog. After seven years and 320 posts, surely I'd covered pretty much all I had to say about financial independence and retiring early.


I still think that's true which is why, over the past four months, there have been zero posts. But maybe it's time for an update - what's happened between then and now, and are there any plans for the future?


  1. As I said, I've not written a single blog post. I've kind of missed that.

  2. No blog posts seems to have translated into me being less good at setting and then checking in on my targets and on how much we spend.

  3. My instinct is that something has been missing from my early retirement life during the first three months of the year.

  4. But I have made some plans for later in the year.


No blog posts

I still think it's true that I've said most of what I have to say on financial independence and early retirement, and I don't want to invent posts just for the sake of it. On that basis, stepping away from my weekly blog posting still feels like the right decision. However, there are some downsides to this too.


If you've read some of my blog before, you'll know that I like routine and believe they've been a cornerstone in making my early retirement a success. My blog was great for this. Setting a schedule to post each Friday meant putting time aside to think of ideas and then write each post to hit my posting schedule. That took more time than you might imagine. On top of that, my blog encouraged me to think more about different subjects and sometimes look at them from a different perspective, both good and enjoyable things to do. And finally, I found some community in my blog, on a weekly basis via the comments and, now and again, by physically meeting up with readers in the USA, Australia, Thailand, the UAE, and France. I've missed the community aspect.


My blog also served as an effective feedback and self-assessment tool for my spending and for the things that I want to do. Once a month, I'd post a review of my early retirement costs and my progress against the targets I'd set, a process that made me constructively review whether I was happy with my spending and actually getting on with the things I want to do (and not wasting my days watching YouTube!). Absent my blog, I'm still keeping a record of my early retirement costs, but perhaps not writing about them each month is contributing to them running higher than has been the case in the past. As to my early retirement targets, almost four months into the year, I've only just written them down and I haven't tracked them once - as my school report used to say, "could do better". In case you're interested, I'll put my costs for the first 3 months of the year and also my early retirement target tracker later in this post.


Is something missing from early retirement life so far this year?

Early retirement life is still great, but I do feel there is something missing compared to previous years, although I'd struggle to put my finger on what the missing ingredient is.


Perhaps it's a combination of it often taking a while during January to get back into my stride after Christmas, followed by having a small hernia surgery that limited my activities in February. Maybe a reduction in routine from not doing my blog is another contributor.


Although, when I think through those first three months of the year, we've had Sally's sister visit followed by my friend coming for five days skiing in January. In February, with my activities limited after surgery, we took the opportunity to take a vacation to Istanbul and Oman. Then, in March, my daughter and I had a long weekend in Paris where we went to a John Mayer concert, and I took a quick trip to the UK. So, it's not that I've done nothing, but perhaps because I'm not writing it down in a blog or a journal, I'm not remembering it as well as when I do write it down.


There's one last thing. Sally is wondering whether she wants to return to teaching in 2025. If she decides to go ahead, that would be an adventure if we found ourselves living in a new country. However, until her decision to teach or not is taken, there is an uncertainty in my life - will we do it or won't we? My personality prefers having clear objectives for which I can prepare and plan for. I'm not so well suited to uncertainty, and maybe that's contributing to my feeling that early retirement life has been a little out of balance during the first three months of the year.


However, there are some plans in place for the rest of the year

Next week, we head to the UK for a month before returning to France for the summer, which is our favourite time in the Alps. There's a saying that winter is the reason people move to the mountains, but summer is why they stay.


After enjoying summer in the Alps, we'll head to the Philippines for a little under 3 months, two of which we'll volunteer in a local school. As a teacher by profession, Sally will be great at this, while I'm a little anxious as it's something I've never done and is therefore outside my comfort zone. I'm still looking forward to it though, and I believe that sometimes being pushed beyond our comfort zone is a good thing. For the remaining month in the Philippines, we'll spend half the time with our friends who live there and the other half visiting some places we've not been to before.


Another activity I'm considering is doing a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course. I'm thinking it might help me be more effective in my volunteering in the Philippines. Also, my struggles to learn French have highlighted how little I understand the grammar of my own English language. Perhaps I simply slept through my English lessons at school - I know what nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are, and thought there were three tenses (past, present and future), but it turns out that's just the tip of the iceberg. It would be interesting to better understand the grammar of my native language.


So, May in the UK, a fun summer in the Alps (I'm thinking friends, running, cycling, hiking, picnics and coffee), perhaps studying a TEFL course during those summer months too (I'm considering a 120 hour course or a 168 hour course, so a substantial time commitment), three months for volunteering/travel in the Philippines starting in September, and then a couple of weeks in the UK in December. The year suddenly seems quite full, and writing it down makes early retirement life feel like it's back on track!


Early retirement costs - 3 months January to March 2024

Starting with our costs, it works out that we've spent an average of £6,472 / €7,508 / US$8,220 a month. That's higher than we have spent in the past as the below table shows.

How much does early retirement cost

Inflation has caused the cost of living to increase over the past two years, and comparisons are difficult - I'm looking at a snapshot of just 3 months so far this year as opposed to full year averages elsewhere. In some years we've travelled a lot (sometimes as much as 4 months), other years much less. In 2017 we were living in Dubai, since 2019 we've been in France, and foreign currency exchange rates will also influence the numbers to an extent.


However, these things don't change the headline which is that by the time we get to December, I hope the 2024 average monthly cost is much reduced from what I'm seeing now. I can't help thinking about our friends who are retired in the Philippines on €20,000 a year whereas we spent that much in just 80 days...Ouch!



In reality, it's mainly our travel expenditure that has run high during January to March. That includes a trip to the UK for each of Sally and me, although they aren't particularly costly trips. More costly was our trip to Istanbul and Oman in February, a family trip to Spain scheduled for April to celebrate a big birthday for Sally and, to a lesser extent, my trip to Paris.


Early retirement targets - 3 months January to March 2024

At the end of last year, in addition to wondering whether I should continue with my blog, I also questioned whether I'm sometimes too fixated on my targets and perhaps a more relaxed approach would be better.


Well, I've generally taken a more relaxed approach in the first three months of this year, and I don't think it works so well for me. I only finalised my targets recently and today is the first time that I've gone through them to see how I'm performing. What I've noticed is that I've enjoyed the process of reviewing them today, but that my more relaxed attitude so far means that I'm not doing so well with them.



Just looking at them now enthuses me. I want to be more consistent with my stretching and think how I can improve my feeling of community. I should try new recipes more often and I find it exciting to think of what I could put in a five-year plan. The five-year plan is important to me - I retired when I was forty-seven, but next month I'll turn fifty-five, so five years would take me to sixty which sounds a little scary. The next five years are not ones that I can afford to waste!


So, that's my early retirement life update. It's been a long post, I've enjoyed taking the time to remember what I've done in the first three months of the year and to think of what the rest of the year and beyond can include. There won't be lots of posts, but I'll try not to leave it quite so long until the next update.

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Guest
6 days ago

Hi David, it was a nice surprise to find your update. I have been following you for some time as I approached retirement and found your insights helpful. I retired late last year and have not settled into my routine yet so seeing some of your targets seems a good way forward ....though I doubt I will be seeing my abs any time soon!


I look forward to reading more of your updates.


Trevor

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michelle
michelle
Apr 28

Hey there. Good to hear from you, been wondering how you and Sally were getting on with everything! Sounds like some exciting plans ahead for you both, always a good thing in my book. Will Sally going back to teaching mean less travelling for you guys or is she considering remote work? I'm with you on the blogging frequency - you still beat me hands down 🤣. I've found I only feel like writing when I can't get outside - and since we've just spent 3 months hiking around various parts of Spain that hasn't been very often! Btw - I like your take on purpose. I've gone through the same kind of transition in thinking. Cheers, Michelle / F&W

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michelle
michelle
Apr 30
Replying to

PS @David. Please remove the link if you don't want it here - I'd hate you to think I was spamming your blog! Looking forwards to hearing what new country you might end up living in - that's pretty exciting! We've started looking at building plots in Granada - exciting & terrifying!

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Hi David - welcome back ! Reading the above comments, it doesn't sound like your followers were bored or feeling like you'd run out of topics 😀Good luck in the Phillipines, wonderful thing you and Sally are doing. Cheers. Andrew

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Replying to

Hi Andrew, it was your recent email that pushed me to write this post, so I owe you thanks for that because I enjoyed doing it.

I'll look forward to swapping our respective experiences in the Philippines and Vietnam. It's a wonderful part of the world.

All the best, David

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Hi David. Thanks for the update and like others, I too still find this useful and interesting. Your blog is by far the most useful resource I've found that's helped me focus. I've been retired now for seven months and I'm slowly finding my way and I often think back to entries in your blog. Thanks again.


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Replying to

Hi Tony, thanks for your kind words. Congratulations on your early retirement, I'm glad you seem to be finding your way into it. By the way, if you fancy sharing your story (it can be anonymous), let me know - I think the experiences of others can be very useful for those on their own FIRE journey. I'm now in year 8 of my early retirement and I always learn something from other people's experience.

Best wishes, David

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David, nice to see you posting again. I was just thinking this past week that it's been awhile and you must be in self-imposed exile. The volunteer teaching gig in the 'Pines sounds intriguing, anxious to hear on that experience. Always look forward to your posts, please keep them coming if only at a more measured pace. Cheers Andrew

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Replying to

Hi Andrew, the volunteering in the Philippines is something that I'm both looking forward to and am a little nervous about at the same time. With the help of our friends, we've arranged it directly with the school rather than through an agency, and I hope that we'll be able to make a valuable contribution. The alternative plan was to look for something in Thailand and then follow up with a month of R&R perhaps somewhere not too far from you, but maybe that's once for another year.

All the best, David

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